Side by side: biodiversity and climate change
There is huge scope for synergy between the fight against climate change and the fight to protect and restore biodiversity. Ultimately, many of the actions we can take to address climate change – and help us adapt to some of the impacts of climate change – are nature-based solutions. They are solutions that use nature and natural systems to deliver positive outcomes for our environment, people, and climate.
What’s important is that we’re planning with that in mind. A substantial proportion of global carbon emissions come from poor land management and the loss and degradation of natural ecosystems. If tropical deforestation was a country, it would have the third-largest annual emission levels after the US and China. More carbon emissions come from the loss of tropical forests every year than are produced by the whole of the EU.
Approaching climate with a nature perspective is going to be central to both reducing our emissions in the first place and making lots of positive changes that will enable us to sequester more carbon. By better managing working lands and natural ecosystems, and by making sure that we protect our forests, peatlands, wetlands, and other natural habitats, we can greatly reduce our emissions. At the same time, we can rebuild nature’s ability to capture and store carbon by restoring and regenerating natural ecosystems.
This is not an ‘either climate or nature’ message. Nature-based solutions are not an alternative to saying that industry and governments need to move away from the most destructive practices or do more to support the transition to a low carbon economy. It’s not about saying ‘let’s continue business as usual and plant some trees and everything will be alright’. That’s definitely not it. The two parts must work together.
We’re seeing the beginnings of good things happening. In a way, biodiversity is around five years behind where we’ve got to with addressing climate change. For climate, we have initiatives like the Science-Based Targets for Climate (SBTi) and we’re now seeing something similar coming in for nature and biodiversity with Science-based Targets for Nature (SBTN). We have clear initiatives for reporting and disclosure around climate, and the same is beginning to emerge for nature with the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).
COP26 was one of the first major climate conferences of its kind to really put nature front and centre. I’ve seen a real revolution over the past two years in terms of the types of companies and financial institutions that are coming forward and want to do something about their nature and biodiversity impact. Not only around the direct impacts of their operations but also across their supply chains and often-complex investment portfolios.
I definitely see positive signs of a step-change in efforts to address biodiversity, but we need to keep up the pace. There is still a long way to go.